I’ve always been different. There were hints of these differences throughout my life. For many years the truth behind my differences lay hidden from me, a secret buried deep within the inner workings of my mind… Autism.
I’m Autistic, but I didn’t know I was Autistic until I was diagnosed at the age of twenty-nine, as I was going through a period of work-related Autistic burnout. I grew up feeling alien, misunderstood, broken, and continuously being under or overestimated, but not knowing why.
“There is damage that happens when you grow up not understanding the different ways in which your mind works. Autistic health is different from non-Autistic health.”
Our differences in how our brains interpret and process the world and sensory information means that many Autistic people need to pay careful mind to nurture and care for their senses in ways neurotypical people do not.
For many years I’d been cruising along just fine in the world, keeping up with everything that was expected of me… until suddenly, in a workplace I’d been operating in for years, I found my ability to function decline. A few small changes to the sensory environment would prove to have significant health implications for me as an undiscovered Autistic adult.
Fluorescent lighting should be illegal, and offices need to find ways to incorporate more healthy lighting solutions, with natural lighting available when possible.
It’s the lights that impacted me when we moved offices. Downstairs I sat in a quiet corner by the window with natural lighting, but upstairs I sat in the middle of the office at the front desk – in the middle of all the chaos, interruptions and away from natural light, and directly under two bright fluorescent bulbs.
I’d been having headaches and migraines off and on throughout my life since starting public school in the first grade. At that time, they were dismissed by the school nurse as a kid trying to skip class, and I was told that I would have to stay in class because I had no fever. So, I learned to toughen up and stay in the classroom, with the lights that I didn’t know were making me sick.
It would take months of exposure to those soul-sucking lights, my health declining, and eventually a late Autism diagnosis for me to get to the root of the sensory triggers that had sparked this burnout (one of many I’ve had in my lifetime).
Learning the truth confirmed something I’ve known since I was very young…
“I wasn’t like my peers. Knowing I’m Autistic has been instrumental in my personal healing process and essential to me getting my health back on track.”
I often think that it would have been nice to have the answer sooner, but really, I’m grateful to have the information. Better late than never. Many Autistic people found out even later in life than I did, and there are undoubtedly many Autistic people in the world today who have no idea they are Autistic – though they probably know they are different.
So, I ask the community of #ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics – who were late discovered/late diagnosed:
How old were you when you realized you saw the world differently vs. when you found out you were autistic?
I always felt different. I was always told I was different, and often it was a compliment. I was diagnosed one year ago at 55. | @DavidsonJilayne
I was very young when I realized I was different. Like maybe before I can even remember “realizing” like I just knew innately for so long. Chronic feeling of being out of place. I was dxed at 26. But I had kinda known since 21. | Stoney, @stoney_sgh
I was diagnosed at 46, but I remember being in my teens and thinking I don’t seem to see the world quite the same way others did. | Ciaran Diamond, @CiaranDiamond5
“Knew I didn’t belong from year dot. knew I was autistic from age 45.”
Fee Plumley, @feesable
I always knew I was different but it wasn’t until I read about how girls/women present differently with autism that I even considered it as a possibility. A year later I was diagnosed, at the age of 64. | Rhonda
I knew I was different for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with ASD at 39. #ActuallyAutistic #AutisticParent | Jen Malia, @jenmaliabooks
In high school I knew I saw the world differently and experienced friendships differently. It wasn’t until very recently at 45 that I’m starting to accept and understand that all those differences were because I’m autistic. I attributed much of it before to a difficult upbringing. | Luci Hutchinson, @Luce47999239
I had nothing to compare it to. I just thought most people were weird and I was normal. | The Autistic Educator, @Theautisticedu1
I was diagnosed this summer at 42yo. I thought I was autistic for about 6 years. I knew I was “weird” fairly early on and started masking in mid-elm. I didn’t start to see why I did things a certain way until the past 2 years, thanks to twitter and then research. | Sara Farmer, @Sayree78
“6 when I realized; 31 when I really suspected: late-30s diagnosis.”
Long as I can remember/earliest childhood memories. Diagnosed at 32. | E. J. Dawson, @ejdawsonauthor
From pre-school onwards and at around 45, when I read a number of books by autistic authors. But by 35 I knew that traditional employment was highly detrimental for my mental and physical health, and that I needed to create a new kind of company with compatible peers. | Jorn Bettin, JornBettin.com
As a young teen I actually asked my mum if I’d been assessed as a child but the diagnosis kept hidden. The answer was no, but I knew I was different! Formally diagnosed at age 42. | @cyanmoon1